Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

TRAVEL GUIDE: Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

If your passion is posh cars that you can only dream of driving, never mind owning, keep an eye on the jobs pages for “Doorman, Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland”.

You’d have to wear a kilt, but that’s a small price to pay for the privilege of parking Rolls-Royces, Bugattis, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lanzarotes (I think they’re a cross between a Lamborghini and a Maserati).

Imagine the tips. You could have a fancy motor of your own before you know it.

Only problem is, the present doorman

is young and fit and has no plans to hang up his sporran just yet, even though he’s probably a millionaire.

Nestling in the heart of the magnificent Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is well-named. Scan the skies and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot one of those magnificent birds of prey.

Take a leisurely stroll, go for a jog or jump on a bike and cycle around the 850-acre estate before lunch or dinner and you’re likely to encounter a deer.

Don’t worry if it’s a stag. Although they sport antlers you could hang a dozen coats on with a few prongs to spare, they’ll turn tail and head for the hills.

I always thought it was only the Queen who had a bagpiper for an alarm clock, but that was before I spent a weekend at Gleneagles.

Mind you, the beds, which are the size of a parade ground — and that’s just the singles — are so comfortable you’ll be in a coma and unlikely to hear him.

That’s why it’s a good idea to

order an extra-loud alarm call from reception, because you wouldn’t want to miss breakfast.

Not even the size-zero stick insect who spent her time poking a piece of asparagus around her plate at dinner the night before could resist the hot and cold buffet the following morning.

Licked-clean plate in hand, she was up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. And no wonder.

When I was a kid, porridge came in two varieties, like it or lumpy it, but at Gleneagles it’s made with cream (they bring the milk bottles in before the blue tits wake up) and served with Drambuie-laced raspberries.

Scotland was the first EU country to ban smoking in the workplace, except where fish is concerned, so off the menu you can order Orkney kippers, or smoked haddock and cheese omelette, or Finnan haddock and poached eggs or Marburry smoked salmon and poached egg kedgeree.

Or, if you’re an American with a backside the side of Ballymena, all four.

Other irresistibles on the menu include 28-day aged Scotch beefsteak with Portobello mushrooms, free-range egg, vine tomatoes and Rooster potatoes, and fried duck eggs with dry cured back bacon.

If you think tea’s too twee, even though they offer half-a-dozen choices, help yourself to a glass of Bucks Fizz, Drambuie Fizz or a frozen Smirnoff Bloody Mary.

That’ll set you up nicely — or send you back to bed — for a day in the great outdoors where there are facilities galore to enjoy, especially if you’re a golfer.

Gleneagles’ three championship courses — the PGA Centenary which will host the 2014 Ryder Cup, the King’s Course and the Queen’s Course — are world-renowned, and each presents its own challenges.

A special Sunday to Thursday offer available until October 31 allows up to four golfers to buy a tee time from 2pm onwards for £320.

The estate is home to shooting, fishing, horse riding and gundog schools and the British School of Falconry, but if you’ve forgotten to pack your tweeds there’s also tennis, snooker, putting, petanque and croquet.

As you might imagine, such unadulterated luxury doesn’t come cheap. Rooms cost from £525 a night for a double or twin Classic on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, and the Royal Lochnagar Suite, which is twice the size of my apartment, is £2,145.

Included is a wee welcome tin of shortbread, and you get unlimited free use of the club facilities that include the gym, swimming pools, outdoor hot pool, jacuzzi and sauna.

The multi award-winning ESPA spa offers a wide range of facials, body treatments and massages. Among the most popular packages is the 95-minute Retreat (£135) that includes a foot treatment and back, face and scalp massage followed by a two-course lunch.

If you fancy a picnic lunch served from a wicker basket, sign up for an off-road Range Rover safari and you’ll see Scotland at its most ruggedly beautiful from some dizzying up, down and sideways angles.

I sat on a green tartan blanket, sipped champagne and spread pate on a crusty roll baked just a couple of hours before in the Gleneagles kitchens.

The only sounds were the bleating of sheep on the mountainsides, the buzzing of bees in the heather and the pop of a cork.

Oh, and the thumping of my heart at the thought of my next Visa bill.

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